Diamond Sells for Record $24.3 Million, Defying Slump

14 08 2010

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) — A colored diamond once owned by King Philip IV of Spain sold for 16.4 million pounds ($24.3 million) with fees at Christie’s International in London today, defying investor nervousness about economic recession.

Christie’s said the price was a record for any jewel sold at auction. The 35.56-carat grayish-blue gem, mined in India and owned by the same private collector since 1964, had been expected to fetch 9 million pounds. The hammer price was 14.6 million pounds before fees.

Raymond Sancroft-Baker, a Christie’s jewelry specialist, bought the gem on behalf of London dealer Laurence Graff, who was bidding by telephone. Christie’s said he was underbid by Aleks Paul, of Essex Global Trading, an art professional of Russian origin based in New York.

“It’s a huge amount of money, but exceptionally large colored diamonds are very, very rare,” said Francois Graff, Laurence’s son and managing director of Graff Diamonds, in a phone interview immediately after the sale. He said the historical provenance of the diamond hadn’t been a major consideration for his company.

“We’re looking at the stone for what the stone is,” he said. Graff Diamonds will re-cut the diamond with the intention of making the slightly chipped stone flawless and a deeper color, he said: “We’ll lose a few carats, but nothing too substantial.”

Crown Jewels

King Philip (1605-1665) gave the stone to his daughter, the Infanta Margarita Teresa, as part of the dowry of her marriage in 1667 to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria. In the 18th century, it entered the crown jewels of the Bavarian royal family, and has been known as the “Wittelsbach Diamond” ever since, Christie’s said.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, whose research was published in Christie’s catalog, the most famous colored diamond in the world is the 45.52-carat blue Hope diamond in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. The 35.56-carat Wittelsbach diamond rivals the Hope “in all attributes,” said the GIA.

Today’s price exceeded the record of $16.5 million with fees paid for the 100.1-carat “Star of the Season” pear-shaped, colorless diamond at Sotheby’s, Geneva, in May 1995.

Christie’s auction today totaled 18.4 million pounds including fees, in line with estimates. Forty-five percent of the lots were left unsold, including a 4.24-carat pink diamond pendant whose lower estimate had been reduced from 330,000 pounds to 200,000 pounds.

“The market is difficult, but it’s still there for the very best,” said Sancroft-Baker.

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